Cayman has a new reigning queen – Tonie Chisholm of North Side, who was crowned Miss Cayman 2015 in front of a packed house at the Lions Centre on Jan. 31. Weekender caught up with Ms. Chisholm to learn about her experience with the pageant and her hopes for the future.
What did it feel like being crowned Miss Cayman?
It was strange. I was shocked. It took me a minute to realize what was going on. I had to ask Lindsay [Japal, the former Miss Cayman], ‘What do I do now?’
Were you nervous the night of the pageant?
I was. But once the opening number was over, I started to relax. I made the decision that this is supposed to be fun and no matter what, that’s how I wanted to remember the night.
Did Lindsay Japal give you any advice from her years as Miss Cayman?
Lindsay is such a strong person, and I’ve always admired that all through her time as Miss Cayman she stayed true to herself – a quality that I hope to continue to show other women who are considering entering the pageant.
Now that you have secured the crown, are you planning for Miss Universe?
Yes, I’ve already started preparing, including training for my walk and understanding what Miss Universe is about. It’s exciting, and I can’t wait to represent the Cayman Islands internationally.
What lessons have you learned from the Miss Cayman pageant?
I’ve learned a lot about myself and what it is I want to do with my life. Also, it’s taught me how to express my opinions to others in an effective way. It’s always good to take advice but be able to still be yourself.
What do you hope to achieve in your reign as Miss Cayman Islands 2015?
I’m a strong believer in the Cayman Islands’ film community, and I want to promote and shine a light on all the great work that our people are creating. I want to be a part of building a solid industry here for people to make careers in. I had the honor of recently sitting down with the premier, Alden Mclaughlin, Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell and Councillor Joey Hew, and I couldn’t be more excited.
They have expressed genuine interest in my film background and want to help me, help promote the film industry in our country. It’s such an exciting time and it’s great that everyone is showing such genuine interest.
What were the highlights of the pageant for you?
One of the highlights for me was the motorcade. We passed the road leading to my parents’ house. I knew my family were going to be outside waving, but what they did was a surprise. My stepmother pretty much stole my 2013 Batabano costume and used it to create a “Team Tonie” sign. They also made their own T-shirts. They were screaming and jumping and even roped in a couple driving by. I was so excited I started to jump up and down in the Jeep too.
When did you start training for Miss Cayman Islands?
I didn’t start training for the pageant until after I applied and was accepted as a contestant. My health and fitness was always something that I have been passionate about, so I came into the pageant excited for the physical training. One of my favorite parts of training was definitely the gym. It was a time to clear my head, recharge, and relax. The staff at Life Extensions gym really did take good care of us.
They are friendly and full of knowledge. They were constantly encouraging us to stay focused. The committee also provided all the contestants with runway training, Toastmasters every week for public speaking, as well as etiquette training. We were very well taken care of as contestants.
You have a degree in film production from Plymouth College of Art. Tell us about your time in the U.K.
It was a very hands-on course with about 30 students, all boys except for myself. We were creating from the first day we got there. We were trained in production, script writing, camera, editing and sound.
I had the chance to meet some incredibly talented people and be a part of so many different experiences. From making a zombie film, ‘70s sci-fi throwback, music videos, the school even started their own film festival that I had the chance to help with. I also had a part-time job at a local restaurant where I got the chance to really know the city that I lived in. It’s a time in my life that is very special and important to me.
Where did you work when you were in London?
I worked for the company Amra Direct. The company is in charge of the local newspapers owned by the Mirror. These were the newspapers that were specific to different cities. I worked in the advertising department that sold the space for the inserts of these newspapers. It was an eye-opening time. I learned a lot and it came with opportunities to grow further. But what it really did for me was help me realize that film is where my passion is and home is where my heart is. So I made the decision after a year to come back home with a friend and start a company.
Tell me about your company Flipside. Will you still be working there, or will your Miss Cayman duties override that now?
Flipside was incorporated about three years ago. My partners were Rob Tyler and Brett McTaggart. Rob came with a passion for camera and Brett, sound. I was in charge of production. Flipside was initially started to offer high-end wedding videos, and we would do other work on the side like music videos and web advertisements. I am no longer with the company but still remain great friends with both. I’ve already reached out to them to see what we can work on together over this next year. I am not sure what my schedule is like just yet, so I am not sure if I will have the chance to create, but I want to promote and shine a light on what people are doing and how we can make our film community stronger.
One of your prizes is a three-year $70,000 scholarship to the school of your choice. Will you be taking that up, bearing in mind that you have a degree already, or will you be studying for an MA now?
My initial instinct to is go back to school and get my MA in film, with a focus on directing. But what I have found was the more knowledge and experience you have, the better storyteller you can be. And that is what filmmaking is all about – telling a story.
Tell me about your sponsor EFG and how they helped you through the competition
EFG Bank (Cayman) were a huge support. I am very close with the office, and they’ve been behind me every step of the way. They didn’t just sponsor me with money, but they gave me time as well. I was even able to go in and practice possible questions with the chief operations officer. They are such down-to-earth, good people. I don’t think that I could have asked for a better sponsor.